Washington Watch: There he goes again

Nader may actually be helping Obama by saying he is too pro-Israel.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
Faced with predictions of big losses in November, the Republicans rolled out their secret weapon this week in an attempt to knock the wheels off Barack Obama's bandwagon. They dusted off 74-year-old Ralph Nader, the man who delivered Florida for George W. Bush in 2000, to announce he's running again. He admittedly has no chance of winning, but his real mission appears once again to take enough votes, particularly Jewish votes, away from Democrats to rescue the GOP from defeat. Without Nader's decisive role, we would not have had the Iraq War, international isolation and record deficits. One can only imagine what lies ahead if he succeeds. War with Iran? Humorist Andy Borowitz got it right: Nader "has officially decided to wreck the 2008 presidential election." While Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, travels around in his Straight Talk Express, Nader soars above it all in Airship Ego dropping his bombs. AS IF TO help McCain win Jewish votes, the ever-generous Nader accused Sen. Obama, the Democratic frontrunner, of being pro-Palestinian in his heart, but just pretending to be pro-Israel for the election. The same folks who've been trying to brand Obama as an Muslim sleeper agent now think they have new evidence. The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has been spending millions in a futile campaign to convince Jewish voters Democrats can't be trusted when it comes to Israel, hastily put out a told-you-so missive. "It's odd," said a source close to Obama. "People on the Right who usually think Nader has no credibility will suddenly quote him on this as an unimpeachable source." Nader "makes assertions on things he knows nothing about and offers no evidence; it's just something he made up," said the source. "It's bulls**t." OK, maybe Nader isn't really a closet Republican, but his latest actions appear to be aimed at undermining Obama's candidacy, particularly in the Jewish community. His progressive policies may appeal to some leftist Jews, but that is overshadowed by his lack of electability and his anti-Israel views. Nader's views on the Middle East more closely resemble those of failed fringe candidates, Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich. NADER MAY actually be helping Obama by accusing him of being too pro-Israel and too pro-business to be the liberal Nader prefers. Until Nader injected it this week, the Middle East was not an issue of contention in this year's campaign since all three leading candidates - McCain, Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton - are running on strong, non-controversial pro-Israel platforms. If he manages to get into the debates in the fall campaign, he can be expected to try to raise the issue and put the major party candidates on the spot. Nader's Web site lists as one of his goals: "Reverse US policy in the Middle East." On Meet the Press Sunday he accused Obama of being "pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois" but switching sides to run for the US Senate and began "supporting the Israeli destruction" of "tiny" Gaza and Israel's "Illegal occupation of Palestine." Nader also bemoans that in the fighting spawned by Hamas attacks on Israel from Gaza, very few Jews are dying. The "civilian death ratio," he notes, is "300 Palestinians to one Israeli." A PERSONAL note: I first met Nader at a seminar in 1969 and I was motivated by his groundbreaking work to become one of the first fulltime consumer reporters on an American newspaper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer (incidentally, our copy boy was Dennis Kucinich). When I came to Washington I was a legislative assistant to Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal of New York, the House's leading consumer advocate during the 1970s; our office worked closely with Nader and his staff. The same messianic drive that made him the most prominent consumer crusader apparently has turned him into the megalomaniacal self-anointed savior of American politics who sees no difference between the two parties and scorns everyone not in lockstep with him. If he really couldn't tell the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore, he must have inhaled too many Corvair fumes. Obama's foes may disagree with everything else Nader says, but they can be expected to take his accusations about a pro-Palestinian past as gospel and use them against the Democrat. Obama and his supporters have been devoting considerable energy trying to convince Jewish voters that he is a trustworthy friend of Israel. They understand that with the need for vast amounts of campaign cash and the possibility that a close election could be decided by a handful of states with big Jewish populations, the last thing Obama needs is a fight with powerful pro-Israel forces. But he'll get that from Jewish Republicans and often-anonymous right-wing merchants of fear who can be expected to point to his liberal past; to his associations with those who, in Obama's words, don't "adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach," and to a kind of blatant racism that equates "African-American" with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. And now they have Nader, the grumpy old spoiler of American politics, on their trash-Obama team.